INDIANAPOLIS – Lost in the wake of a monumental collapse by his basketball team Thursday against Summit League rival IUPUI, IPFW coach Tony Jasick couldn't come up with any positives from the 88-74 defeat.
That happens when you watch your team finally begin to play smart and tough at both ends of the court in seizing a 68-61 lead, only to see it all disintegrate possession by possession over the final 7:40.
Over that span, the Mastodons fouled the shooter three times, turned the ball over six times, missed seven of eight shots (only three of which were inside the three-point line) and allowed the Jaguars (6-10, 1-2 Summit League) to end the game on a 27-6 run.
Any good accomplished throughout the game – and Jasick's team did many positive things – were forgotten by the end.
Thursday's outcome is indicative of where this program is today.
The Mastodons have made a habit over the past two seasons of being very competitive in almost every game, but at critical junctures, they'll turn the ball over, miss a shot, not defend well or do all of the above, and eventually lose more often than not.
At that point, no one remembers that for 37 minutes IPFW was competitive; the fans just remember the loss.
If this trend isn't reversed, no one is going to remember that Jasick worked really hard, ran a clean program, graduated his student-athletes and had teams that were almost always competitive. The truth is, coaching at the collegiate level is a win-loss business, and over the past 32 games against NCAA Division I programs, the Mastodons (8-24) have been on the wrong side of that ledger way too often.
And the coach isn't alone in this regard.
Jasick has done a great job of recruiting and developing talented players who almost always work hard. Take for instance, senior forward Frank Gaines.
Gaines showed up in Fort Wayne five years ago as a scrawny, unskilled athlete. Today, he is one of the stronger and more prolific offensive players in the Summit League.
However, his 28 points on Thursday were forgotten by those who observed the game closely due to his propensity to take defensive possessions off.
With just under seven minutes remaining and the game still very much for the taking by either team, IUPUI guard John Hart, whom Gaines was guarding, caught a pass but bobbled it. With Gaines not pressuring the former Purdue player at all, Hart had the time to retrieve the ball, get his feet set and shoot an uncontested jumper. Gaines never even attempted to raise a hand and contest the shot.
Any successful coach will tell you that it is vital for the best player on the team to also be its hardest worker. That isn't the case with this group, and that is just one of the many reasons (it isn't all Jasick's, nor is it all Gaines' fault) why IPFW hasn't been successful since former coach Dane Fife left for Michigan State.
At this rate, Gaines is simply going to be remembered as an explosive scorer on bad teams.
That rationale also applies to senior center Mario Hines.
Against the Jaguars, Hines didn't miss a shot, and at times he displayed breathtaking agility and athleticism for a player his size (6-foot-8).
But lost in that performance were acts of immaturity, which often follow Hines, despite his age.
After guarding poorly throughout the first half, IPFW came out in the second half and defended even worse. In the initial 1:44, the Mastodons allowed an offensive rebound and jumper, followed by throwing the ball away, followed by allowing Jaguars shooter Sean Esposito an open three-pointer.
So it was appalling at that point when Hines got open for a dunk and then proceeded to scream while slamming the ball as hard as he could down on the court. In a game that should have come down to the final minute (as a lot of IPFW games do), one would think that a senior would be smart enough not to even risk receiving a technical foul.
Hines did himself one better after the game when he walked off the court toward the locker room without shaking the IUPUI players' hands. He had to be corralled back onto the court by Mastodon assistant coach Dan Bere.
Unless Hines morphs into a mature, intelligent player over the next couple of months, no one is going to remember the positives that he displayed on the court. Certainly not the younger players in the program who are supposed to learn from veterans like Gaines and Hines.
This program under Jasick's guidance is at a crossroads, and his team needs to begin playing well for 40 minutes and actually securing victories – and it needs to do so in the Summit League for credibility purposes.
Yes, the Mastodons are 6-8 (0-1 SL) this season. However, two of those victories were against NAIA programs (Rochester and Judson), and three more (Texas-Pan American, Dartmouth and Kennesaw State) were against teams that are considered among the worst in Division I based on RPIs (non-scholarship Dartmouth is rated the highest of the three at 296th out of 347 teams).
Just being competitive is no longer acceptable for this program. No one remembers the teams that were competitive; they only remember those that won.